Jul 24, 2023 - Economy

Looming sugar shortage could impact Halloween candy prices

Illustration of a bag of sugar, labeled "$ugar."

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Expect everything from soda, baked goods and Halloween candy to cost more thanks to “sugarflation.”

Why it matters: Sugar prices are on the rise and expected to keep increasing with tight supplies coupled with weather mayhem, experts told Axios.

  • “The intensity of the dry season that El Niño is set to influence this year could result in a 10%–15% reduction in sugarcane yield globally,” said Nidhi Jain, an associate specialist at The Smart Cube, a research firm.
  • "Your sweet tooth may have to pay a pretty penny to be satisfied" because of the weather and increasing demand worldwide, Lisa Thompson, a savings expert for the Shopmium cashback app, told Axios.

The big picture: The nation’s nearly 90-year-old sugar program is the root of the problem with its policy requiring 85% of U.S. sugar purchases come from domestic processors, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • The National Confectioners Association is working with lawmakers to reform the program, Carly Schildhaus, spokesperson for the group, told Axios.
  • American businesses are forced to operate at a disadvantage, Schildhaus said, noting they pay two to three times as much for sugar as their competitors in other countries.
  • Rising food costs are impacting families, Schildhaus said, and "the U.S. sugar program only fans the flames on these increased costs, forcing American consumers to pay $2.4 billion to $4 billion more per year for food."

By the numbers: Sugar and sweets were up 11% in June compared to a year earlier, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.

  • Candy and chewing gum were up 13.2% year over year.
  • Carbonated drinks, which include soda, were up 9.1%.
  • Globally, sugar prices have surged 42% since June 2022, according to data from The Smart Cube.

Halloween 2023 candy prices

Between the lines: The sugar shortage could cause a Halloween candy shortage, which manufacturers have warned about in the past.

  • Last July, the Hershey Company warned it might not be able to “fully meet customer demand” for Halloween 2022 because of supply challenges.

Yes, but: This year the popular candy company is in a different position.

  • “Our production is busy and our warehouses are full. There is not going to be a shortage for Halloween,” Todd Scott, Hershey’s senior manager of communications, told Axios Monday.
  • “Most likely what consumers will sense this year is higher-priced Halloween candy, but there's a chance, given the sugar supply issue globally, that some candy manufacturers could fall short,” Thompson said.
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